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Communications Act 2003

Section 274: Securing reception of must-provide services in certain areas

592.This section requires OFCOM to include in the licences for every licensed public service channel, the public teletext service and every licensed television service added to the list of must-provide services under section 275 conditions which secure the reception of those services. Such conditions may provide that where persons required to provide must-provide services fail to enter into or maintain arrangements that meet the requirements of subsection (3), OFCOM may impose such arrangements. Before doing so, OFCOM must consult all persons who provide must-provide services. The arrangements that may be entered into by, or imposed upon, providers of must-provide services must secure that, where necessary, any member of the intended audience (as defined in subsection (10)) for a given service, who has bought the relevant equipment (for instance a dish and a digital satellite decoder), has available to them a facility for receiving the must-provide services (including any that are broadcast by satellite) and that this is made available free of charge. This applies only where that person could not otherwise (e.g. by digital terrestrial broadcasting) receive the service to an acceptable technical standard. The effect of the arrangements currently, for example, would be to require the relevant broadcasters to supply “smart” cards for the operation of receiving equipment that will permit reception of the free-to-view services (“solus cards”). The broadcasters must share the costs involved. They must also establish complaints procedures and ensure that these procedures are publicised in accordance with OFCOM’s guidance. Any such arrangements will only take effect if approved by OFCOM.

593.Subsections (6) and (7) clarify when reception of a service is to be regarded as being free of charge. Subsection (8) provides that OFCOM shall determine the quality of reception required before someone can be treated for the purpose of this section as receiving a service in an intelligible form.

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